Tag: genre-based approaches
Introducing: the We Can Learn Arabic website!
As I’ve detailed in my curriculum development posts over the last two years, we have slowly been replacing our textbook with our own materials, generally based on texts we find on the internet or create ourselves. Although I’ve frequently been asked when we will make our own textbook, I’ve actually never been interested in making a textbook–my dream has always been to create an open access website that serves as a textbook in the sense that it provides materials and structure, but is also flexible enough to be adapted by teachers in a variety of contexts.
Today, I’m excited to announce that my dream has come true, in the form of the We Can Learn Arabic website! In this post, I’ll describe what we’ve done so far, as well as some future plans for the site. While we use it in place of a textbook, it could also be used alongside a particular textbook or materials of choice.
Lesson plans: Genre-based approaches and the interpersonal mode
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) describes three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational, and lists Can-Do statements in each of these modes. The presentational mode is for sharing information, opinions, etc, and usually consists of one person communicating with a larger audience, either in writing, speech, or multi-modal forms. The interpretive mode is what we usually think of as comprehension, understanding a written, oral, or multi-modal text. The interpersonal mode is when one or more people are interacting with each other, and again this could be in speech, writing, or multi-modal forms. In focusing on language functions and finding example texts, we try to find examples that are in both the presentational and interpersonal modes (and these all become the interpretive mode for our students at home, to recreate in their presentational or interpersonal forms in class). However, we have found that it is much easier to find texts in the presentational mode (either oral or written) than in the interpersonal mode. On the one hand, this makes sense (who records their conversations?), but this can also mean that it is challenging to find examples in this mode. Ones we do find, are often somewhat presentational as well, such as an interview where there are two people interacting, but there is an expectation for a larger audience as well that would not be there if those two people were talking in a more informal situation. The same thing would apply to something like a Twitter conversation.
Color-coding to develop meta-linguistic awareness in the classroom
In genre-based approaches to language learning, one of the key goals is to teach students not only what texts mean, but how they mean, so students can use (or resist) these conventions when they express themselves. While the goal of understanding WHAT a text means is fairly straightforwards for students and instructors, I find that the goal of understanding HOW a text means is more complicated.
Curriculum Development Part 8: Week 6 Recap, and Final Thoughts
In my last post, I described Weeks 3, 4, and 5. In this post, I’m back with a recap of Week 6 and some final thoughts on the project. I’ve also placed links to all of the curriculum development posts leading up to this unit at the end of this post if you want to follow the story from the beginning!
Curriculum Development Part 4: Unit Plan and Week 1 of Party Planning
As I mentioned in my previous curriculum development posts, this year in our Intermediate Arabic classroom we are moving away from the textbook and designing our own units informed by genre-based approaches to language learning. We are concluding our unit on housing, and starting our unit on planning an end of the year party. This is the unit I’m primarily responsible for developing, so I thought I would blog that process as I do it. In previous posts I’ve discussed background information, choosing assessment tasks, finding texts, and introducing intentional translanguaging pedagogy. In this post I’ll discuss making the unit plan and planning the first week of the party unit. The goal of this unit is to have students develop the skills to plan and carry out a language clubs mixer at the end of the semester.
Curriculum Development Part 2: Finding Texts
This post is part of an ongoing series as I document our process for developing curricular units inspired by genre-based approaches to language learning and translanguaging pedagogy. Previous posts in the series include a background post and choosing tasks (Part 1).
Genre-based approaches in the language classroom: the appeal and the challenges
I first learned about genre-based approaches to language teaching in a pedagogy class in graduate school, where we read two articles describing various aspects of the Georgetown German Curriculum. I was immediately attracted to this approach, and have been working to implement this type of curriculum for the last six years in our Arabic classes (it’s been a long process!). In this post, I want to focus on the reasons I find this approach so appealing, and why I keep coming back to it despite the challenges I’ll discuss, and also how I hope to expand it in the future.
Curriculum Development: The Background
The more I teach, the more I become interested in the process, and the complex interplays between theories of language, theories of pedagogy, context and practice. When I first started teaching, I would become frustrated when I couldn’t match what I envisioned as the “ideal” theory or practice to the classroom. Yet as I gain more experience, I find these interactions between theory, practice, and context to be the most fascinating, and I think my teaching is the better for it. But, before I get into our current plans, I thought it would be useful to provide some background on the phases our Arabic curriculum has gone through since I’ve been involved with it.
What is language? Functional theories
Like formal theories of language, functional theories of language come from the field of linguistics, although this type of linguistics is less commonly found in the U.S.. The type of functional linguistics I am most familiar with is Systemic Functional Linguistics, based on the work of Michael Halliday, and practiced predominantly in Australia. While I am also far from an expert in functional linguistics, a key tenet of functional linguistics is that language cannot be separated from social function, or what humans do with language. This means that in contrast to formal linguistics, there is not a linguistic system that can be analyzed independently of the way it is deployed. In terms of language learning and teaching, this means that: